i3: Week 5 reflection (Part 3)

(Here’s part 2.)

The instructional activities

My objective, briefly, was that students think of variables as boxes with names and values, and of assignment as putting something in the box.

In the classroom I have worked for several years to present this as clearly as possible. In my introduction to programming logic course, for example, I hit them with the following five components:

  • I have a section of a couple of different lectures devoted to the key concepts.
  • I continually trace programs by drawing the boxes and putting the values in them.
  • I have an entire assignment in which they practice doing the same thing.
  • I use an alternative version of the assignment statement to cement the idea of it before we move on to using the equals sign.
  • I continually tell them “be sure you are thinking of a variable as a box with a name and a value”.

In my online class most of this won’t be feasible, not only because it’s online but also because it’s only a 1 credit hour course, which changes how I have to prioritize the time. So I plan on using just four strategies:

  • They start by working through a tutorial in the textbook, even before I teach them anything myself. This will give them some initial exposure to the idea of variables. It isn’t as focused on what a variable is as I would be, but on the other hand they will actually be using variables in their code from the beginning. The practical experience that gives them will give me something to hook the correct concepts too later on.
  • Second, I will ask them the forum questions I discussed earlier. The point is to make them think about what a variable really is after they’ve read it in the book but before I’ve clarified anything. I’m relying on the idea that if they can get it by themselves, everything will fall into place without any further help from me. (I’m pushing them to clear a new space on their shelves for the programming variable concept.)
  • Third, I would like to prepare a couple of 5 minute video lectures/demonstrations on key concepts. There would be one on variables (“they are boxes”) and one on the assignment statement (“it isn’t an equals sign”).  Afterwards I’ll have them respond in the forums again so I can see if they really got it.
  • Fourth, as the course continues, I will continue to emphasize this concept whenever they seem confused about it.

The instructional activity I submitted in fulfillment of the i3 assignment is the forum questions, but I’d like to build the video lectures too. I don’t know how to do that at this point.

So that’s my second question, directed toward the i3 instructors: how do I create a 5 minute video lecture in which they can hear me talk but can see diagrams and pictures as I talk about them?

Part 4 discusses the rubric.

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